Hello from the Occupational Therapy (OT) team at ExercisAbilities. I’m Maria Serbus, the OT team lead at EA and my passion area is Mind-Body Wellness.
For many Americans, we are presently facing a time where our lives and daily routines have been thrown off by COVID19. As human beings, we tend to thrive on routine and change in the routine can trigger some unsettling emotions such as: fear, anxiety, stress, insecurity and depression. Anyone can experience these emotions and we all fall on the mental health spectrum- some days may be better than others and many of us have learned to cope in some fashion. Others struggle with their mental health on a greater level. According to NAMI (updated on Sept. 2019) 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness, and 1 in 25 adults experience serious mental illness (https://nami.org/mhstats).
Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, today we are going to talk about mental-emotional health, occupational therapy as a service to help address mental health, and a couple tools I use to manage and modulate my own emotions and thus my energy levels. At the end of the day, we are all in this together, and here at ExercisAbilities we want to support our SE MN community in staying healthy in mind and body during this uncertain time.
According to mentalhealth.gov : “Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act.” Emotions play a large role in our mental health. So today I am going to focus on the concept of emotional regulation. Emotional regulation is our ability to calm ourselves when we are upset, or cheer ourselves up and we are feeling down. It is our ability to monitor our emotions and experience them and express them in a healthy manner. Strong emotional regulation skills are tied to greater mental health. However, more research in recent years have also shown that our emotional well–being is also strongly tied to our physiologic well–being. Research from the Heart Math institute shares that our emotions impact our autonomic nervous system (ANS) and our emotions strongly impact our heart rate variability- one measure of our autonomic nervous system. Our emotions can actually drive our body system into synchronized activity in the ANS known as coherence, thus reducing the negative impacts of stress, improve cognitive function, and improve our emotional health and mental wellbeing.
At ExercisAbilities, our occupational therapy staff is trained in helping our clients young and old achieve better heart health, emotional well–being, and mind-body wellness. Our present OT staff all have training and experience in treating mental illness and promoting wellness and most recently, two of our staff have become HeartMath trained practitioners. HeartMath is a set of research proven tools including techniques and technology to assess one’s heart rate variability (autonomic system function) and implement tools to help achieve higher emotional regulation. To learn more about HeartMath, see this promo video from the HeartMath Institute: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CU-eJkSMPs.
We all can utilize a few more tools in our toolbox to achieve greater emotional well– being and mental health and wellness. Today I want to share some tools I use to promote wellness in my daily and weekly routines.
- Heart Focused Breathing (demo video to follow on our YouTube page)
- Stop Breathe Think meditation app – variety of meditations from “Lion Mind” to help improve my focus or “Gratitude” to help me shift negative emotions to more feelings of gratitude to “Grounding One” when I need to shift my focus inward.
- I’m a visual person so I have positive imagery and quotes displayed at my work desk and home desk to modulate my emotions at work.
- Yoga and Tai Chi movements to keep me moving and they initiate a sense of calm and satisfaction and purpose after I complete a routine
- HeartMath Inner Balance app on my phone- it allows me to track my own heart rate variability in real time using an ear sensor and focus on achieving greater coherence even if it’s just for 2-3 minutes!
- Essential oils- I love a wintergreen like scent from Young Living called Panaway!
- Energy stones – I love the beautiful stones I got from “A Beautiful Soul” in Rochester – Rose quartz gives me a sense of peace and calm.
If you’re interested in learning more, or improving your own mental well-being and emotional health! Please call us at ExercisAbilities! Our OT staff is ready to help and find out if HeartMath training or our other OT services are right for you!
Maria Serbus, OTR/L